Mineworkers unions have thrown down the gauntlet to Impala Platinum over looming job cuts, warning the miner that, should it continue with its plan to cut 13000 jobs and shut down five mines, it would bring the company to its knees.
“We are not going to run to [the] labour court, we don’t have money ... we will hit where it matters most ... [the] gloves will be off,” president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Joseph Mathunjwa, said at a press conference in Sandton on Tuesday.
Implats, which announced its “major value-focused strategic” restructuring plan last week, still needed to consult with trade unions as per the Labour Relations Act and the mineral resources department according to mining legislation, before going ahead with its plan, which was going to be implemented over a two-year period.
Mathunjwa warned that, should consultations with unions fail, the union would embark on industrial action at Impala Platinum. He also warned of a secondary strike at Implats operations if the company brings “technical” issues to the negotiations over job losses.
“[We will] make sure there is no ounce of platinum that goes out of the ground,” Mathunjwa said, adding: “You know we are capable of that, we are not bluffing.”
Amcu led a five-month wage strike in 2014 in the platinum sector, which impacted economic growth and the entire Rustenburg region.
Amcu is the majority trade union on the platinum belt.
Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe slammed the retrenchments announcement as “reckless and irresponsible” on Friday.
According to the Implats plan, 9 000 permanent employees and 4 000 contractors will lose their jobs over the next two years. Platinum producers in South Africa – the world’s largest source of the metal – have been battling weak commodity prices and subdued demand in recent years.
Mathunjwa also called on the state to nationalise the five shafts Implats has scheduled for closure, calling this “a great opportunity”.
He also accused the government of “manufacturing” the high unemployment rate.
Mathunjwa said Amcu would work with any union to prevent job losses but said that their major rival, the National Union of Mineworkers had no representation at Impala Platinum. – Additional reporting by Fin24